One vision for the City of Asheville 68-76 Haywood Street property and 88,000 citizens

Ideally there would be a large unified award-winning sustainability strategy project on both the 68-76 Haywood Street and Catholic Diocese property on the 100 block. In strategy ‘designing out’ what isn’t desirable is one starting point in relation to a high stakes matter like this. I understand the desire to turn the corner on the Asheville hotel glut and move into a more fruitful yet sustainable mode. That’s a big part of why I’m running for city council. We need people who can produce realistic, high value posterity solutions in government.

What I wanted to see starting in July was a smart, open community wide effort that would have set up an local group further developing a vision and seeking investors locally and nationally that would finance a high sustainability solution that might include a gorgeous park/garden are on 20-30 percent of these valuable properties, but also office space and the kind great responsible business, nonprofit, and government organizations we want to see offering better opportunities to our people. That and another 20-30 percent for affordable housing would have been great.

This combined economic development strategy (EDS) and affordable housing outcome are also elements most Asheville citizens are demanding. I also demand better results across the sustainability performance spectrum for Asheville. I live here too.

Moving away from luxury hotel/condo overbuild in Asheville without seeing another chaotic real estate collapse is not as simple as asking for a park. That’s why I will be sharing details on the Asheville Sustainable Tourism Strategy. I completely agree yet another luxury hotel/condo project across from Basilica of Saint Lawrence following the important messages the Pope just shared with America would be miserable and not productive.

The process the Asheville Design Center started with COA and the Catholic Diocese no longer includes hotel developer McKibbon Hotel Group. But McKibbon and other luxury hotel/condo developers are almost certainly developing the future COA 68-76 Haywood Street RFP solution now. The RFP respondents can contact the Catholic Diocese separately, checks are written to city hall and the diocese, and its over.

A protest track called St. Lawrence Green (SLG) developed with Cecil Bothwell in the lead has emerged this year. In years past Cecil’s approach had some impact on undesirable developments. Times have changed and we needed to get moving as a team in another direction this summer as I detailed in my July position article on these matters.

Many Asheville citizens want a defined result right now that draws a line in the sand on reversing luxury hotel/condo overshoot. But we need proper processes and the right platform to fulfill these desires. There are also the outcomes all 88,000 Asheville citizens rely on now. I personally can’t rely on Cecil’s approach that only the candidates who agree with his tactics and no other strategy are going to deliver a big win for the city. I do not see many 2015 candidates with the education and experience around these matters. One of my degrees is a Master of Project Management. We almost exclusively covered infrastructure issues.

My education, my management consulting business, and experiences as a GroWNC consortium member, having been part of the entrepreneurial families that prevented the Downtown Mall in the 1980’s, and generally observing and being involved in what’s happened to Asheville in recent years, provides me with both the story of Asheville and the scientific method informing me as to where we stand. I’ve heard the public will on how to grow Asheville sustainably over the course of many years. Parkland downtown isn’t the only note we need to play.

Cecil isn’t the only main player here. There are 88,000 Asheville citizens all needing great government and economic solutions wrapped around sustainability principles.

I have asked when city manager Gary Jackson plans on retiring. Gary and his role in organizations like the Economic Development Coalition and COA Office of Economic Development is a factor. If we had been looking into a new city manager after I got that idea in print back in May, this would have changed the dynamic too. At the same time I agree that moving away from a 68-76 Haywood Street property sale to a hospitality entity to seeking an EDS win as city staff started to propose this year is an improvement. City staff had been going with one marketing study saying a hotel build was our most realistic option.

If we want it all though we’ll have to up our game as a city. And I want that high value sustainability design for these properties as I know it will change the development vibe in Asheville. Asheville City Center is the kind of holistic development strategy we should be excited about. It’s unfortunate how divisive the SLG effort is. I don’t see a lot of insight into influencing the range of positive sustainability outcomes we want and could be articulating with a fresh approach that revives the GroWNC work.

Now an unknown factor will send in a winning RFP solution and we’ll be getting whatever that is very soon. Complexity versus protest is a hard choice. I suggest more of us work towards developing a fresh approach to public strategy. We have a lot to lose otherwise in Asheville, the state, and nation if we don’t. There are 88,000 Asheville citizens who all rate valuable resolutions on these high impact matters.

The SLG folks have a petition and a survey. Pack Square Park came into being because some folks got organized and formed the Pack Square Park Conservancy. It’s the same with the COA 68-76 Haywood Street and Catholic Diocese properties: just insisting on a park isn’t enough now. We’re in a new, even harsher economic climate and we need job and affordable housing sites, not just park space.

There can be some park space on these important sites, and preserving what green space is left in city limits is great. As a GroWNC consortium member I learned there are few if any properties in Asheville now that don’t have high strategic value placed on them. We’ve given local government a lot to deal with. If people want to let the agreement with the Catholic Charities go and go 100 percent parkland on 68-76 Haywood Street, there’s an opportunity cost there.

Leadership is about taking this city in a more sustainable direction. We aren’t in perfect sustainable equilibrium right now. I call this vision for these properties and other development issues Asheville City Center. It would be easier to call for 100 percent parkland, but I just don’t see the Asheville consensus going there today.

Posted in Asheville, Innovation and Opportunity Ecosystem, Open Strategic Innovation for Communities.